re: What to Say to the Agent Who’s Had My Manuscript a Year?

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Dear Editor…

A well-reputed agent has had my full for almost a year now. I’ve nudged her once and she says she hasn’t read it yet. Her policy is to inform her if you receive rep elsewhere on fulls she currently has. I’ve received many rejections for this ms already – I’ve been told it’s a tough sell because it has a dystopian vibe – and personally, I want to shelve it. I’ve been working on another ms in a different genre and plan to query that soon. What happens if I’m offered rep for the new ms that’s in a different genre? How do I inform this first agent who still has my old full (when it’s a completely different ms)? Will she be upset that I want to go with someone else? But I can’t sit around waiting for her forever. What’s the most professional way to handle this without burning bridges?

Thank you!
M. L.

Dear M. L….

Darn tootin’ you shouldn’t wait forever. This agent knows that, too, as she acknowledges with her request for notification should you land other representation. Send her a note that you’re starting to submit a new project elsewhere and should it garner an offer you’ll let her know the ms she has is off the table. You’re neither pulling the dystopian submission from her nor submitting that same ms to others, so there’s no hint of foul here. In fact, you’re taking an extra step to be communicative and she’ll likely note that professionalism. Her concern isn’t personal, she just doesn’t want to spend time reading an ms that’s not available. End your note by saying you know agents like to consider only one project at a time from an author, but if she’d like to see the new one you can send it her way, too, as part of your multiple submission. “It’s a [insert genre] about…” and then supply your one-sentence hook statement about the story. If she’s intrigued, she’ll ask for the new submission and then you can provide your full query pitch for your fab new project.

Happy writing!
The Editor

4 Comments

  1. Dear D.H., Editor:

    I think you may have a second calling. You should be in the diplomatic core! I love reading you responses. Not only are they succinct, but also so informative and inspiring. Thanks for all your time and efforts to help us.
    Happy Valentine’s day!
    jLp-scbwi-sd

  2. Why would you even want to continue with an agent who hasn’t had time to read the manuscript in a year? Think of what that will mean when, if she likes it, and begins sending it around. This feels like a red flag saying, “beware.”

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